Indiana and Illinois are now preparing requests for proposals for private investment in the Illiana Expressway. It's a sign of progress for a road that has been needed for a long time.
The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning and the Chicago-based Metropolitan Planning Council have criticized the Illiana Expressway proposal. The Illiana Expressway's critics, like us, should welcome this request for proposals.
If the new road is a smart investment -- as we believe it is -- the investors who would collect tolls in exchange for building this road will make that clear through their proposals. And that will put to rest critics' concerns about whether this expressway is financially viable.
The Illiana Expressway was promoted by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn at Friday's three-state regional summit in Chicago.
"Infrastructure is one of the natural areas where you have to think regionally, because roads don't stop at state borders," Pence said.
"You have to remember the original tollway was called the Tri-State Tollway," Quinn said. "We have to have the attitude we are all in this together."
And yet the Illiana Expressway has been criticized by people who don't share that big-picture vision, first espoused in urban planner Daniel Burnham's famed 1909 Plan of Chicago, of highways ringing the Chicago metropolitan area.
As proposed, the Illiana Expressway would link Interstate 65, north of Lowell, to Interstate 55, near Wilmington, Ill. The road is intended as a way to relieve traffic on U.S. 30, the Borman Expressway and other east-west routes.
Michael Mullen, a former CEO of CenterPoint Properties, spoke Friday of the need to get trucks off local roads. CenterPoint developed an intermodal facility a decade ago near Joliet.
"There are naysayers that don't quite get it," Mullen said. "But I welcome anyone to drive down there and see the amount of truck traffic moving out of there."
The Illiana Expressway is needed. It will generate thousands of jobs and will become a valuable route for trucks, especially.
We're confident the investors will decide what we already believe, that this project is needed and is worth the investment. Let the bidders prove the naysayers wrong.